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Crews Readying TCNJ's Campus Town for Students
Cristina Rojas
As seen on NJ.com

EWING --The College of New Jersey's commencement has passed and most students have gone home for the summer, but there is little summer vacation at Campus Town, where the clank and clang of construction rings loud.

The large mixed-use complex, which will bring a state-of-the-art fitness center, shops, restaurants and 612 one-, two- and four-bedroom apartments to the campus' edge, is meant to provide a place to go for students, residents and visitors alike.

The $120 million project is a public-private partnership between the college and developer PRC Group. On Monday, Greg Lentine, PRC's director of university campus development, gave a tour of the site to Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann and Curt Heuring, TCNJ's vice president for administration, updating them on the progress.

"This is the way of the future," Heuring said above the clatter of construction vehicles and equipment. "Here's an example of when people work together and form teams for the mutual good, you get things like this project. This will be a boon to our community, our students, our faculty and our staff."

With students set to move into the first phase in late August, the pressure has been intense to have the housing ready by then, but Lentine said the crews are ahead of schedule.

Outside, men in hard hats could be seen pouring concrete and inside, the apartments smelled of fresh paint and new carpeting.

Heuring called Campus Town the "perfect interaction space" where the college and greater community can meld together.

"Often our campus is not easily accessible by members of the community and our students, when they go out into the community, they can be disruptive sometimes," he said. "This provides a place where they can do it safely, productively and constructively."

He said that research shows that students fare better academically when they live on campus, but the college has long faced a housing shortage.

"We can't house as many students as we'd like," he said. "But by working with PRC, we're able to add 612 beds that we couldn't otherwise afford to add or have no place to do it."

Campus Town, he said, gives upperclassmen a taste of the real world in a "safe zone."

"It's not really off-campus, but it's not really on-campus," he said. "So it's a hybrid which will be a great learning experience for our students on how to live with the community."

The second phase, which will add another 166 apartments to the initial 446, is expected to be completed in fall 2017, Lentine said.

Heuring said that those two buildings, which face the the School of Business, will allow the college to host conferences in the summer by providing a space for business executives and attendees to stay.

Steinmann said he was impressed so far with what he saw and said that the new apartments would help relieve some of the housing pressure in town. The houses in neighborhoods where students rent could then be opened to families.

"This is a tremendous opportunity not just for this local neighborhood, but for everybody to come and stroll around," he said.

Among the retailers are a Barnes & Noble bookstore with a Starbucks inside, Panera Bread, Mexican Mariachi Grill, Yummy Sushi, Piccolo Trattoria, RedBerry Frozen Yogurt, Polished Nails salon, Spencer Savings Bank and Verizon Wireless.

Lentine said he is still ironing out the lease details with a sports bar and other retailers.

The mayor said that Campus Town's offerings would be complementary to the transit village set to break ground on the former General Motors plant and Naval Air Warfare Center.

"We'll be offering different venues over there as opposed to what's here so people will have choices," he said.

He said the township is working to add bike and walking paths to the area and has been in talks with the state to add lanes to Route 31.